Arm Balances and Personal Power by Natasha Collins
Throughout my yoga journey my love of and fascination with arm balances has developed and grown. I'm fascinated by how they almost appear quite unnatural to begin with, I thrive off the challenge involved in arm balances and most of all I just love how they make me feel! As a child I wasn't one of those children who was always upside down walking around on their hands... I didn't do gymnastics or dance... I did Judo! So instead of having some knowledge of arm balances already present in my mind and body I found myself having to learn physically and mentally about arm balances as an adult... this was a challenge!
I found I had self imposed limitations and fears that I had unknowingly created, I had to take myself out of my comfort level in order to allow myself to learn new things, and in fact to find a place of calm within them.
I remember the first arm balance I learnt, Crow Pose (Bakasana)... I watched in awe as others seemed able to lift themselves up, weightlessly balancing on their arms, and they were even able to hold it! I tried... (ouch!)... the backs of my arms were in shock, they never even knew they could touch my knees, let alone start to take the weight of my body and there was no way those feet were going to lift off the floor! I tried and tried and tried, I had little bruises on the backs of my arms from my knees, I envisioned being able to successfully do the pose, all the time, I practiced it at home whenever I thought about it, taking the pillows off the sofa and making myself a little crash mat for the inevitable head to floor result... then one day... lift off!!! Now I wasn't able to hold it yet, but I was starting to realise that it was in fact possible, slowly I was able to hold it for longer, and with more control.
Little did I know that it was actually my Bandhas (internal locks) that I was starting to connect with, that by engaging Mula Bandha (the root lock) it was allowing me to lift up, almost making my body lighter! Working with Mula Bandha facilitates an unblockage of something called Brahma granthi (a psychic knot located in Muladhara chakra... the root chakra). Releasing Brahma granthi brings about grounding, and a sense of stability and security, and allows more of a grounded fluidity of life to occur. So arm balances aren't just about the arms!!! I tell my students all the time that it seriously doesn't matter if they can do an arm balance or not, and it doesn't! The difficulties you come across when you're trying to achieve an arm balance often bring about the most learning opportunities. When you manage to achieve an arm balance it becomes a matter of refinement, and peeling away the finer layers of the posture... there is always more to learn from a posture... it is never perfect, and that's one of the beauties of yoga practice... you never stop learning!
For me personally, the process of learning arm balances first of all stripped away any illusions that I was in some way amazing, it grounded me and made me realise where I was at that very present moment. Slowly slowly little glimmers of light appeared as I crept closer to being able to hold a balance, and with that a sense of personal power was being cultivated. Now, this is quite different to a feeling of ego (believe me, I've let the ego take over in arm balances before and it always ends in a crash or an injury!!), this is knowing that I have the calm strength to be able to balance on only my arms. With this is also a detachment from the result, but instead working with what I have on a given day; some days an arm balance will come easily whereas on others it just doesn't want to happen, and that's fine!
The very nature of working with arm balances from a yogic perspective allows personal power and strength to grow. We mindfully focus on the breath, our focal point (dristhi), and our bandhas... the mind can't wander when all of this is in place! We get to tap into our strength and personal power rather than our ego and often it is only through persistence and dedication to practice that we can finally achieve what we are attempting (if we are ever able to achieve it!). With arm balances we are building our physical and mental strength, we are cultivating grounding and stability, plus its just good fun when we can actually balance on our arms, and in fact when we can't!